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Army expected to announce cuts at Fort Drum Thursday

Julia Botero
WRVO file photo
In the worst-case scenario Fort Drum could lose as many as 16,000 troops and civilian jobs.

The Pentagon is expected to announce major cuts across the entire Army Thursday morning. Local officials and those who live in Fort Drum’s surrounding communities are waiting anxiously for news on what specific cuts will be made to the base.

Now that the Army is no longer facing combat in Iraq and Afghanistan its now confronted with how to downsize. There are two requirements the Army needs to meet. First, the Army has to get troop levels down from 490,000 to 450,000 in the next two years. This cut is mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

When you spread those cuts between 30 different military installations across the country, there are a lot of different ways this could shake out to make the cuts less drastic to any one base.

The second cut is the one mandated by sequestration. This requires the Army to cut an additional 30,000 troops in less than two years. 

Carl McLaughlin, the head of the Fort Drum Liaison Organization, says this is the cut that worries Fort Drum the most.

“This is Draconian in terms of what it means, the second cut, because that is your readiness cut. That is the cut that gets to the meat what we are about in terms of training soldiers to deploy and deploying solders. Fort Drum is the fighting Army. It happens here," McLaughlin said. 

McLaughlin says he thinks the Army won’t release details on both set of downsizing immediately. He thinks they’ll stick to letting the public know where the first 40,000 soldiers will be cut and wait for Congress to decide what to do about sequestration. But he says he can’t be sure if this is the day the Pentagon will reveal where a total of 70,000 troops will be cut.

“The picture is very, very vague. We simply do not know what is going to happen and that’s scary.”

Right now there are a little over 17,000 troops  and close to 4,000 civilians employed by Fort Drum. According to a study by the Army, last year the base had a $1.8 billion impact on Northern New York.

But for the community around Fort Drum this news is personal. At a listening session this spring, the community rallied together to tell the Army how much the base means to their livelihoods. Ed Sevalls, of Gouverneur, expressed concern about the upcoming cuts then. His job is providing soldiers with housing on base. 

"I have a lot of family and friends who are supported by employment out in Gouverneur by the soldiers around the Gouverneur area. it would be devastating if we lost more soldiers. It would be really hard on us," Sevalls said.

In the worst-case scenario Fort Drum could lose as many as 16,000 troops and civilian jobs.